The ICT sector in Ethiopia is shaped by sector regulation that was approved in 1996 to create a single national operator. The national ICT policy that governs the ICT sector was drafted in 2005. The policy's vision was to attain:
"…the social and economic well-being of the people of Ethiopia through the exploitation of the opportunities created by ICT for rapid and sustainable socio-economic development, a robust democratic system and good governance."
The mission of the policy was to develop:
"…Ethiopia into a socially progressive and prosperous nation with a globally competitive, modern, dynamic and robust economy through the development, deployment and exploitation of ICT within the economy and society."
To achieve the above vision, the government has crafted various programmes with the aim of:
- Creating an enabling policy, regulatory and legal environment for the growth and utilization of ICTs,
- Developing the necessary ICT human resources, infrastructure, rural access, ICT standards, and local content,
- Strengthening the capacity of public institutions to facilitate the mainstreaming of ICTs for socioeconomic development, and
- Facilitating the use of appropriate technologies for development of applications and content for rural development, good governance, and service delivery in priority sectors.
In an effort to implement the ICT policy, the government has launched a series of high profile projects. Various government institutions also launched several applications – including a national web portal.
The reform of the communications sector began by separating the regulatory and the operational functions through the establishment of a regulatory entity, the Ethiopian Telecommunications Agency (ETA) by Proclamation 49/1996, and a commercial entity, the Ethiopian Telecommunications Corporation (ETC) by Regulation 10/1996. Before 1996, the Ethiopian Telecommunications Authority had acted both as a provider of communication services and the regulator of the sector.
In its thirteen years of operation (1997-2010), the regulator, ETA was active internationally and regionally. ETA was a founding member of the Association of Regulators of Information and Communication for Eastern and Southern Africa (ARICEA).
In the year 2003, the government established the Ethiopian ICT Development Agency (EICTDA) with a mandate to support IT applications and capacity building within the government. The EICTDA was organized around five themes:
- ICT for government,
- Legal and regulatory frameworks including standards,
- Human resources development,
- ICT applications in various sector,
- Private sector development and promotion of community access.
The EICTDA was also charged with the development of a national ICT policy. It was in addition mandated to coordinate the functions of regional ICT agencies that had been established under the former Ministry of Capacity Building.
The EICTDA, through funding from the World Bank, was able to launch a series of projects that improved ICT access in the public sector. It commissioned a series of studies on IT standards and frameworks. These range from technical standards on selection of hardware and software, to e-government Interoperability framework, to E-service standards. The EICTDA was also able to draft laws governing the online environment including e-commerce law, data protection law and digital signature law.
The third organization with an ICT regulatory mandate was the Ethiopian Broadcasting Authority (EBA) established by Proclamation no. 178/1999, although operations would later begin in 2000. The EBA was set up under the auspices of the Ministry of Information, but was later transferred to the Government's Communications Office. While the EBA was confined solely to the broadcasting sector, the ETA and EICTDA continued to share responsibilities across regulatory divides until the Federal Government decided to create a new Ministry of Communication and Information Technology (MCIT) that assumed all their functions.
In the year 2010, the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) was established by Proclamation 691/2010. The intent was to bring the aspects relating to communications handled by the former Ministry of Transport and Communications, as well as the regulatory powers of the Ethiopian Telecommunication Agency and implementation activities of the Ethiopian ICT Development Agency together. A new directorate, the Communications and IT Standardisation and Regulation Directorate, was created in the ministry to handle all regulatory issues across the entire ICT sector. The main tasks of the Directorate are:
- Developing standards for Telecommunication, Information Technology and Postal Services
- Forwarding the standards for Telecommunications, Information Technology and Postal Services for approval by relevant authorities,
- Monitoring the implementation of standards in the Information Technology, Postal an Telecommunication Sectors,
- Reviewing of compliance to standards and guidelines including type approving equipment,
- Creating standards in the communication, Information Technology and Postal Services,
- Act as knowledge centre on Communications, IT and Postal Standards including answering public queries, and
- Follow up with and participation in international discussions on Telecommunications, Postal and Information Technology Standards.
The Directorate focuses on regulation and standards in the entire postal, communication and IT sub-sectors. It carries out not only technical regulatory functions such as issuing and managing spectrum, numbers and approving equipment, as well as monitoring and enforcing quality of services parameters, but also economic and administrative regulatory issues such as setting base fees for different services and addressing consumer complaints.